The Cultural Center has been buzzing with enthusiastic creative energy the past two weeks with the 27th annual Lincoln Theatre Guild Drama Camp in session. All three floors of the center had groups of children working on different aspects of theatre. Some were singing, others dancing, some working on costumes, while others worked on improv.

Almost 50 children signed up this year with multiple volunteers pitching in to keep the camp running. In the morning the campers break out into smaller groups to learn different things about theater like costuming, make-up, set design, characterization, projection, music, dance and choreography and in the afternoons, they all come together to work on an upcoming production. 

“They’ll learn all of the things that go into making a show over these two weeks,” Mike Wirth, one of the camp counselors, said. “Also during this two week time, they work on production of a play called ‘Camp Chaos’ which will be shown Friday night at the Cultural Center.”

So many of the children come into camp shy, quiet or withdrawn and within a few days become outgoing and gregarious, Wirth said. 

“It’s really exciting to see them find a place that they fit,” he said. “In many cases they didn’t have a place before. The feel comfortable and they can be themselves. It gives them confidence which a lot of kids don’t have these days. Each of us, in our way, is a star. That’s what we really want to instill in them – you are precious, you are a star in your own right and never let anybody take that away from you.”

Junior directors, many who have come up through the ranks of campers over the years, are in charge of the play, which is about a camp with “Wally” as the director. Wally has been running the camp for a long time and it’s starting to deteriorate and is in financial difficulty. Throughout the production, a rich woman from town tries to take over the camp and the health inspector shows up and finds an infestation of mice so the campers have to get rid of them to help save the camp.

“We’ve broken it up into sections so each child gets to participate,” Wirth said. “Some are campers, some are counselors and all are involved in the music and choreography.”

Much of the Bolton family has been involved off and on in the Theatre Guild. This year, Autumn Bolton is one of the junior camp directors and her brother, Noah, is a camper. Noah Bolton’s not so sure he likes having his big sister as a director but he’s having fun anyway.

“Camp has taught me a lot about responsibility and what I want to do when I grow up,” Autumn Bolton said. “Directing is something I’ve been interested in and this is giving me a chance, as a young person, to experience what it’s like.”

Relatively new to the theater scene, Justin Wilson attended camp last year as a junior camp director and is now a theater major at Lenoir-Rhyne University. He’s a junior camp director once again this year. Wilson has taken part in a lot of shows put on by the Lincoln Theatre Guild as well as other local theater groups.

“I loved it and kept right on going,” he said. “I’ve grown as an actor myself and this year, I’m trying to show the kids things that’ll help them as actors going forward.”

The campers are from a wide range of ages and abilities. Several have attended camp before but there’s also some newcomers. Those that have come back say they’ve done so because they love it and make a lot of new friends.

Makenna Davis has attended camp for four years now and this year she has several solo roles in “Camp Chaos.” She was one of the campers who was very shy when she first started, but that’s all changed. A camper from Huntersville, Caroline Dixon, attended the Lincoln Theatre Guild Drama Camp two years ago, then went to a theater camp in Charlotte last year. She didn’t like the Charlotte camp as much so she returned to Lincolnton this year.

“This one is more involved with everyone, it’s not just the lead roles, it doesn’t leave anyone out,” she said. “The scenes are all split up so everyone has lines and feels involved. It’s more fun that way.”

“Camp Chaos” will be shown at the Cultural Center on Friday at 7 p.m. and is open to the public. Admission is free but donations are accepted at the door.

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